The pilgrimage destination Mariazell Basilica, on Hauptplatz (tel. 03882/2595), dates from the early 13th century, and has three prominent towers. The goal of the pilgrimage, however, was to come and pray and make votive offerings to the statue of the Virgin, which is mounted on the altar.
The church was originally constructed in the Romanesque style, and then a Gothic choir was added in the late 14th century. The bulbous domes are baroque, a style added to most of Austria's churches in the 17th century. Both Fischer von Erlachs, senior and junior, aided the Mariazell transformation. The grave of the world-famous Hungarian Cardinal Mindszenty is in the church; there's also the Mindszenty Museum. In 1983, Pope John Paul II visited Mariazell and the cardinal's burial place.
In the treasury are votive offerings accrued over some 600 years. The Chapel of Grace is the national shrine of Austria. Miracles are attributed to its statue of the Virgin, giving rise to fame that has spread all over Europe. The altar on which the statue is mounted was designed by the younger von Erlach. In summer, large groups gather on Saturday night for torchlight processions to the church.
The treasury is open May to October Tuesday to Friday from 10:30am to noon and 2 to 3pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is 3€ ($4.80).
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